A Dialogic Approach to Understanding Infant Interactions



Infant interactions with adults are now widely understood to be central to their learning. Although the centrality of relationships to quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a fairly new development the importance of interactions with other people in the lives of infants is highlighted in recent research  that emphasises interactions as fundamental for infant learning, development, and emotional well-being. In keeping with this proposition the chapter that follows emphasises the complex infant interactions that take place in a high quality New Zealand ECEC context with teachers and peers. Utilising dialogic methodology (Bakhtin MM: Speech genres & other late essays (No. 8; trans: McGee VW). University of Texas, Austin, 1986) the authors set out to explain how these interactions can be fruitfully explored within an event-of-co-being that is made up of a series of utterance chains. They explain how the visual surplus of participants can provide a means of ‘seeing’ these interactions more richly through multiple visual fields. Insights suggest that infant learning – when conceived of as a series of communicative links over time - extends well beyond traditional claims of one-to-one, sender-receiver exchange to embrace the complex, connected nature of dialogic experience.



The authors would like to thank the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research and the University of Waikato for their generous funding to support the research upon which this chapter is based.


Communicative link

The link that connects utterance chains.


A series of utterance chains connected by communicative links comprise an event-of-co-being.


Language form combinations and their meanings in dialogue.

Utterance chains

Verbal and non-verbal sequences of language, which when imbued with meaning make up the event-of-co-being.

Visual surplus

What can be ‘seen’ from the perspective of the ‘other’ (see White 2016a, b).


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of WaikatoTaurangaNew Zealand

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